SWAT 4 Review

Computer games sure have come a long way in the past ten years or so. Take the SWAT series Ė it can trace its root back to the old Police Quest series of adventure games. Youíve come a long way, baby. SWAT 4 is a full-fledged first-person action game that puts you in command of a team of highly-trained police officers and places you into the middle off dangerous situations where youíll encounter intelligent and deadly criminals as well as innocent civilians who must be protected at all costs. Itís realistic, intense, and will draw you into its world far more than the games of the early 1990ís could ever hope to do.

As alluded to above, SWAT 4 puts you in the role of a SWAT team commander. The campaign takes you through a series of independent missions that each require you to deal with a police situation that is just too volatile and dangerous for the frontline cops to diffuse. Each mission begins at a start screen that allows you to either receive briefing information from your commander and the dispatcher or to jump right into the mission. Youíd do well to take the time to go through the briefing and supporting materials however, as there is a wealth of useful information to be found such as photos of the suspects and building floor plans. Some missions will even let you listen to a tape of the original 9-1-1 call.

Before beginning a mission you also have the option of selecting your weapons loadout for the mission. Remember that youíre a police officer, so donít expect to find RPGs and heavy machine guns in your arsenal. You do get a lot of different non-lethal weapons such as tasers and pepper spray and an assortment of grenades such as flashbangs and gas grenades. If you prefer not to go into this level of detail, you can proceed to the mission and the game will provide you with a balanced loadout automatically.

Unlike most first-person shooters, your objective here is not to run through the mission killing anything that moves. As a police officer your first duty is to protect life and you will be operating under strict rules of engagement that authorize lethal force only when another life is threatened. Kill a suspect and your mission rating will suffer, kill an innocent civilian and the mission immediately ends in failure. Gunfire is your last resort and because of this the missions require a slow and methodical approach. When faced with a doorway, youíll need to use your optiwand camera to check if anyone is lurking behind the door and then coordinate with your team to bang and clear the room (break down the door, toss in a flashbang grenade, and quickly subdue any incapacitated people inside).

Complicating matters is the fact that youíll inevitably come across innocent civilians while looking to apprehend suspects. When you do youíll need to ask them to comply with you kneeling down after which you must restrain them. For your own protection and theirs it is not a good thing to have people wandering around a dangerous location. Unfortunately not all civilians see things this way and youíll be forced to subdue them with non-lethal force.

Success in SWAT 4 is a team effort and you wonít get too far with a lone wolf approach. Fortunately SWAT 4 comes with one of the best squad control interfaces Iíve ever used. When you use the mouse to point at an object, door, or person, you can call up a context sensitive orders menu with the right button and issue a command with a click. You can order your men to place a charge, zip cuff a civilian, open and clear a room, and a lot more. Furthermore you can issue the orders to your entire squad or to each individual two man subsection by cycling through the groups with the Tab key. This allows you to enter and clear a room by sending each half of your team through separate entrances. Since you can only be in one place at a time, the game also allows you to view the action through the remote teamís helmet cams in a picture-in-picture style window and issue orders to them from within that window. Some missions will also place a remote sniper in your squad and youíll be able to bring up his helmet cam window as well and even snipe targets from within it. It all works very well and will quickly become quite an intuitive and invaluable tool in your missionsí success.